In News | By Timothy Charles | February 11, 2022
A Fogo Island Food Journey, by Chef Tim Charles
Earlier this month I was honoured to accept the appointment to Executive Chef, at Fogo Island Inn.
More than 12 years ago, when I was working on the mainland of Newfoundland and Labrador, I first heard about Zita Cobb’s audacious project. I remember what felt like an electric charge running through my body. The Inn had not yet been built—the construction team had only just broken ground—but I knew it was where I needed to be. This property was to be a celebration of community, place, and local hospitality—all things I held dear.
When I arrived on Fogo Island two years later, to join the team as a sous-chef, I began a humbling and transformative journey to the space I now hold. Its direction was informed by the rhythms of life on this island hanging off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and wrapped by the Labrador Current.
Forging my career at the Inn over the past decade, I have overcome so much youthful hubris and surrendered to the powerful reality that I must find ways to take action every day to better myself. Here we are constantly pushing ourselves in our work practices, kitchen culture and culinary authenticity. I am proud of the accomplishments of our kitchen to date, first guided by Chef Murray McDonald, then later under the direction of Chef Jonathan Gushue. We have grown thanks to the contributions of so many brilliant individuals who care deeply about the culinary space: colleagues such as Dasha, Sarah, Kara, Adam, Bryce, and Paul to name a few.
We started here on Fogo Island with big dreams, but without a known identity or complete understanding of our potential. I feel that we are coming into our own now, and we have refined our vision for the guest dining experience. The whole—or cumulative—experience at Fogo Island Inn is an extension of the time guests spend at the table. The meals we put before guests must be nutritionally rich, balanced and earnest—with a nuanced dash of indulgence. At heart, we are a dining room in an inn, and as such, our primary role is to welcome guests warmly, nourish them well, and ensure they feel cared for through thoughtful attentions.
Over the years, the Kitchen team at the Inn has benefitted from the friendship and fresh eyes of visiting chefs and hospitality leaders, including Hugh Acheson, Craig Grozier, Tyler Shedden, Alex Chen, Albert Ponzo, Jamie Kennedy, Jeremy Charles, Lynn Crawford, Lora Kirk, and Emma Cardarelli. It’s exciting to think of how these relationships will deepen, as we continue to grow. This year we are also hosting a new food-focused residency—Labrador Current Foodways—curated by Fogo Island Arts. Bringing artists in to share their perspective and insights will help us cultivate a deeper understanding of Fogo Island’s distinctive food culture and ingredients.
Community is the driving force behind everything we do at the Inn. Fogo Island has become my home over the years; the down-to-earth and loving ways of people here are a reminder not to take anything too seriously and to enjoy the beauty all around us.
The connections I have made with our growers, wild harvesters and food suppliers have helped me better define why it is we choose the ingredients we do. Understanding the lives and dreams of our food partners infuses life into the dishes we make with their products.
Working at Fogo Island Inn allows me so much: a space for inquiry, opportunities to pursue originality in authenticity, the chance for meaningful exchanges with peers and guests. Being able to share this journey and lead our Kitchen team into the future is a privilege.
I have inherited a legacy. I also hold institutional memory of this kitchen, having worked here since before the Inn first opened to guests. Knowing the paths we have taken to arrive here helps me plan the way forward with insight and care. My biggest goals, as Executive Chef, are to mine the creative breadth of our past to define a place-centered cuisine and to ensure our team members can lead fulfilling and balanced lives, in and out of the kitchen, in this special place.
I am so excited for what lies ahead. I will be contributing blog posts here every month, to keep you informed about what’s new and exciting in our world. Please drop us a note—we would love to hear from you if you have comments or questions about Fogo Island’s foodways and the dishes we create.
And should you find yourself staying at Fogo Island Inn—do drop by the Kitchen to say hello!